Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Brewing up with Bill Wyman

There was a thing on NPR today that got me thinking. Then a question on leafboxtea.com pushed me to consider something related.

When the Rolling Stones were recording Exile on Main Street in Southern France in the early 70s, they had a hard time adjusting to some things. They were avoiding the British tax authorities, and recording in the basement of a Villa. It was a very heady time if you believe the accounts of both band members and hangers-on.

'But The Rolling Stones adjusted to life in France anyway. In the new liner notes to Exile on Main Street, guitarist Mick Taylor writes, "I'm not having any problem with the language here, because I don't speak French." Jagger then mentions what Bill Wyman says in the documentary — that the band was in the part of France where people went specifically for its food, yet he can't find his favorite tea bag.'

The question they posed was 'If you could have tea with someone famous, who in the world would that be?'

I'd go back in time to the summer of 1971, load my retro suitcase with all my tea gear and a selection of my best loose-leaf tea, and fly into the Nice airport. I'd call a friend of mine who's lived in Nice his whole life and have him drive me up to Keith's Villa. He and I are on first name terms. Me and Keith...thick as thieves, us.

The house is called Nellcôte and it's located in Villefranche-sur-Mer not far from Nice. I arrive sober as a judge, set the kettle on and sit down in the midst of the hedonistic madness going on around me. Then and only then, I take out my tea.

Little bags of this and that that I've collected in my travels. (This is the Seventies people. There was no on-line tea shop.)

Have a shop in London where I go to for good Indian tea, and when I'm in Hong Kong, I get all the Chinese green and Oolong I can carry in my bags.

You young whippersnappers have no idea how easy you have it today.

Being 'into' tea has never been easier. Never.

So what would I serve Bill? He's been complaining for weeks about the fact that shops here in France have no proper teabags. I'd quickly serve him an Assam-Ceylon blend. It's something I've been working on. It has all the spice of a good Assam, but the Ceylon softens the blow. It's malty, but not overly so. It's the best I can do for my old compadre. Playing bass for the Stones is a much harder gig than anyone recognizes. Bill needs some tea.

I pour it, he smiles, takes a soft leisurely sniff. Smiles wider, and sips the dark brown stuff. At that moment, while he and I
feel the tea go smoothly down and make its way to our farthest extremities, we are brothers in a way that only made sense in the early Seventies. There you go Bill.

Historical Revisionism of the highest order.


  1. All you need now is the stamp of approval and have the story printed in the proper publication. Then it virtually happened!

  2. Of the highest order indeed!

    Love the Stones. They're in my top 5 favourite bands.

    Pssh, black tea. I'd probably goad him into having some oolong. >=)